State Entrapment Hearing Starts for Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Defendants

By Ken Silva
Ken Silva
Ken Silva
Ken Silva is a former reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 23, 2022Updated: February 23, 2022

JACKSON, Mich.—The entrapment hearing for three former Wolverine Watchmen facing state charges in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer began Feb. 23, in what could be a preview of the upcoming federal trial for the alleged plot’s ringleaders.

Joseph Morrison, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar have been charged under Michigan law with providing material support to a terrorist plot. Their case is separate from the federal charges against accused plot ringleaders Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta.

With at least 12 undercover federal informants or agents involved in the group, both sets of defendants claim they were entrapped.

Testifying at the Feb. 23 state hearing was FBI agent Henrik Impola. Impola is accused of perjury in a separate matter and won’t testify at the March federal trial. Defense attorneys for Morrison, Musico, and Bellar said they wouldn’t raise the perjury allegations at the entrapment hearing, but indicated that they may return to the issue in the future.

Defense attorneys Andrew Kirkpatrick and Nicholas Somberg—who are representing Bellar and Morrison, respectively—questioned Impola at the start of the hearing.

Kirkpatrick made the case that his client, Bellar, abandoned the Wolverine Watchmen in July 2020 due to concerns about the alleged plot leader, Fox. The FBI didn’t make any arrests until October 2020.

Impola retorted that Bellar isn’t accused specifically of trying to capture Whitmer. Rather, he faces a charge of materially supporting a terrorist group—in this case, the paramilitary Watchmen.

But Kirkpatrick stated that Bellar made numerous attempts to deescalate the actions of his fellow Watchmen. Kirkpatrick cited audio recordings of Bellar heard speaking out against “black-bagging politicians” and arguing that any military training put to use by the group should be defensive in nature.

The entrapment hearing became heated when Kirkpatrick asked about his client expressing concerns about Fox to an undercover federal informant.

“Throughout your investigation, you were made aware multiple times that Bellar thought Fox was crazy,” Kirkpatrick said to Impola.

“I’d have a hard time agreeing with that,” Impola responded.

“Really?” Kirkpatrick asked. The attorney exhibited a transcript from a March 3, 2021, preliminary hearing, during which Impola had admitted to his undercover informant telling him about Bellar’s concerns.

Impola said he couldn’t recall specific instances of Bellar expressing concerns about Fox to undercover informants. This prompted Kirkpatrick to exhibit a court transcript from March 3, 2021, in which the attorney asked the FBI agent the same question.

“Your answer: ‘I’d have a hard time with an exact answer, but he did say that [Fox is crazy],’” Kirkpatrick told Impola.

Impola responded, “I feel like you’re referring to specific comments.”

At this point, Musico’s attorney, Kareem Johnson, accused Impola of being a hostile witness for not directly answering Kirkpatrick’s questions. Judge Thomas Wilson declined to treat Impola as hostile, and Kirkpatrick moved to another line of inquiry.

Morrison’s attorney Somberg argued that the Wolverines’ actions escalated after one of the FBI’s undercover informants, an unnamed Iraq war vet referred to as “Dan,” joined the group.

Impola disagreed, instead characterizing Dan’s actions as deescalating. Later in the hearing, Impola said he didn’t know what kind of militia training took place before Dan joined the group.

The hearing was still ongoing at this article’s publication. Johnson had yet to question Impola, and Michigan’s assistant attorney general, Sunita Doddamani, had yet to direct her questions to the FBI agent.

Dan is also set to testify at the hearing. The matter was initially scheduled for just one day on Feb. 23, but Wilson indicated that the hearing will continue at a later date.